Early in her career as a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Sandra Hutchens felt the frustration patrol deputies and police officers still feel today when they arrest a gang member.
“The most frustrating thing about it was you really couldn’t do anything other than arrest and look at the 5-year-old whose brother was a gang member, and just see his or her future,” Hutchens said.
In Orange County, however, law enforcement and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has partnered with schools and corporations and others over the last decade to make a difference through the award-winning Orange County Gang Reduction & Intervention Partnership, or OC GRIP.
Hutchens made her remarks Wed., Sept. 26 at OC GRIP’s third-annual gala fund-raiser at Ford Motor Company in Irvine. An OC GRIP board member and longtime supporter of the program, the sheriff is retiring in December.
“I don’t get behind every program,” Hutchens said, “but I’m proud to serve on the board of GRIP, because it works. And the dollars you spent tonight really (make a) difference every day. I’ve seen it first hand.”
Launched a decade ago at two schools in Anaheim, OC GRIP has expanded to 60 O.C. elementary and middle schools. More than 400 partners from over 14 cities have banded together to support OC GRIP, which targets students from 4th-8th grade.
GRIP focuses on preventing targeted at-risk youth from joining criminal street gangs by providing the resources and structure to help guide such kids in receiving an education to live a productive life. The program focuses primarily in the areas of academics, attitude, and attendance.
The gala, led by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, featured a silent and live auction, a Hutchens tribute video, dinner and dancing.
Rackauckas said he’s sad to see Hutchens go and praised her for her leadership.
Other honorees were:
Principal of the Year
José Pedraza, of Kinoshita Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano. Pedraza has been involved with OC GRIP for nine years.
Student of the Year
Roxanne Reed of Shorecliffs Middle School in San Clemente. Roxanne went from failing grades to excellent student thanks to OC GRIP, and is a standout taekwondo student.
Parent of the Year
Margarita “Maggie” Gonzalez, whose child attends Roosevelt Elementary School in Santa Ana. Gonzalez was instrumental in setting up a very active parent greeter program at the school.
Community Partners of the Year
Larry and Angela Worsham, owners of Chick-Fil-A franchises in Orange. They have provided free food to countless GRIP events.
OC GRIP cited Hutchens’ “selfless leadership.”
Among OC GRIP’s many partners are health care organizations, faith-based groups, probation departments, private businesses, and non-profit organizations. A few examples of the many partnerships that support local youth include The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Blizzard Entertainment, PIMCO, Chick-Fil-A, WayMakers, Saddleback Church, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Ford Motor Company.
Steven Georges contributed to this story.